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The Disagreement Value in Knowledging


Disagreement is rarely considered as something positive. It is rather viewed as an annoying obstacle standing in the way of one’s learning process, which is rather sad because, in some ways, disagreement can lead to several fruitful results. Nevertheless, the role of argument in a conversation is often diminished.

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In the given paper, the significance of disagreement in the pursuit of knowledge in human and natural sciences is being discussed. Analyzing the role of disagreement in discussion in light of the theory of knowledge and its key concepts will help find out the true value of disagreement in the process of acquiring knowledge.

Defining the Key Concepts and the Related Issues

The argument definition – nailing down the problem

To start with, it is crucial to mention that the key argument of the given research is that disagreements help speed up the pursuit of knowledge and contribute to the search of the correct solution to a great extent. Without disagreements in the course of a conversation, no original ideas would have ever been producing; moreover, there would have been no breakthroughs in the realm of social and natural sciences. The very concept of human and natural sciences could have been considered useless if it was not for disagreements, which the given paper is going to prove.

The research context and the related phenomena

The research is going to be conducted in the context of human and natural sciences, as has been mentioned above. Also, the negative impact of disagreement is also going to be considered for an objective result. Viewing the problem in different contexts will help make the paper more objective.

Disagreement and It’s Positive Effects on the Argument

As it has been mentioned, disagreement is rarely referred to as something positive. However, when arising in the course of a conversation, a disagreement spawns an even more heated discussion that triggers more opinions on the issue and, hence, contributes to the development of the most objective evaluation of the issue in question.

However, in sciences, disagreement is bound to finally lead to the logical conclusion, since in sciences, there are strict formulas and laws for the argument to base on. In natural and human sciences, the picture can be a bit different.

Resolutions of the emerging issues

Another important positive effect that disagreements have on conversations is that they spur the discussion process, serving as a kind of catalysts for the communication process and the search of the truth. There can be no doubt that with the help of a counterargument, a discussion reaches objectivity since it incorporates the arguments for and against a specific idea. Considering the issue from several viewpoints, the participants are more likely to discover the solution several times faster.

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Disagreement and the ways of knowledge

It is also important to stress that, from the perspective of the theory of knowledge, disagreement can open new possibilities for the members of the discussion in terms of ways of knowledge. While a certain phenomenon can be interpreted in one way based on its image, i.e., with the help of visual ways of knowledge, it can display quite different qualities when its other properties, e.g., smell, taste, sound, etc. are identified. Thus, the disagreement in the ways of knowledge can be extremely useful in cognizing the properties of a certain object or phenomenon as long as this disagreement leads to further exploration.

Opinions Clash as a Source of Misunderstanding

Disagreements help move the discussion in case the former is solved in a civilized manner. When a heated discussion gets out of hand, however, disagreement can turn into a conflict, thus, causing considerable damage and even throwing the participants into confusion. Therefore, the negative effects of poorly handled disagreements should be viewed as well.

Areas of knowledge where dispute fails

When human factor interferences a discussion in the field of a social or natural science, chances are that the goal of the dispute will turn from reaching the truth to a matter of competition and winning over the vis-à-vis. It is hard to deny that, in contrast to sciences, natural or social sciences offer little to no formulas and exact numbers, which means that a social or natural science dispute can become a manifestation of demagoguism.

As O’Connor warns, “The methods remaining available to us in such disputes are non-rational, such as impassionate oratories or persuasive speeches. Disagreement loses its rational character and becomes solely a matter of competing and conflicting attitudes” (O’Connor).

Knowledge issues and the clash of opinions

Like in the previous example with different areas of knowledge, disagreement can fail when it argues against a specific knowledge issue instead of exploring it better. To be more exact, disagreement presupposes that the opponent has a point, yet it does not mean that the opponent is going to move any further beyond that point. Therefore, disagreement can hinder the process of knowledge acquisition: “none of this gets us any nearer to settling what to affirm rather than deny (or vice versa)” (Camp 214).

Dispute and confusion in the ways of knowledge

Unless the discussion is logical and cohesive, the disagreement will lose its point entirely. Moreover, disagreement can become the cause of confusion. For example, in a discussion of judicial policy, the idea of judgment as a sublimation of a person’s or people’s underlying values can undermine the entire idea of social justice, as Feeley and Rubin explain.

According to the latter, the lack of sufficiency and reasonability in such discussions: “The different results that these approaches generate can be both useful, but they will breed confusion unless we are clear about their underlying premises” (Feeley and Rubin 365). When disagreement appears, the only possible way to resolve it is to evaluate every single factor objectively; otherwise, the discussion fails.

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The Role of Disagreement in Acquiring Knowledge

The process of learning the truth doubtlessly needs a thorough consideration of all the factors involved, especially the conflicting ones, and disagreement certainly offers a plethora of opportunities for comparing and contrasting different viewpoints. It goes beyond any reasonable doubt that a disagreement, when based on objective evaluation and facts, is bound to lead to more discoveries and will finally contribute to revealing the truth.

Even though some misunderstandings discussed above are possible, a thorough discussion can easily handle the emerging misconceptions. Disagreement plays a defining role in learning the truth and acquiring knowledge about a specific object or phenomenon.

Examples of the Role of Dispute in Natural and Human Sciences

As it has been mentioned above, when it comes to natural and human sciences, a dispute can lead the participants to a peculiar discovery and even help find out the answer to the question discussed. To illustrate this idea, some examples must be provided. Taking such natural science as history and physics, one will be able to trace the positive effects of disagreement on a discussion.

When speaking about the significance of disagreement in history, a discussion of a specific historical event seems the most obvious choice. Indeed, in the course of a discussion spawned by disagreement, more peculiar information about the incident in question can be revealed, which will help re-evaluate it.

For example, one might disagree that the USA had any effect on the outcomes of the War in Vietnam, therefore, causing a heated discussion that will eventually help prove that otherwise, the civil war in Vietnam would have led to Vietnam’s independence.

Another example of the significance of disagreement, the famous argument concerning the twin paradox in the theory of relativity led to proving the fact that there is no such thing as absolute time; instead, the idea of relative time was developed. Hence, arguments in natural sciences lead to constructive solutions to complex problems. The same can be applied to human sciences.

Taking such a branch of human sciences as education will be an appropriate idea. While previously, children with mental disorders were to attend special schools or be homeschooled, because of the argument concerning the necessity of socializing with peers and the existing educational approaches, means of intervention have been developed to allow children with mental dysfunctions feel that they belong in a school mini-society as well.

Moreover, with the help of the responses that the adepts of homeschooling practices for the children with mental disorders offered, a specific plan for intervention can be developed based on the ideas that the opponents provide as a support of their side of the argument. Therefore, in education, disagreement plays an important role, since it allows to solve topical problems faster.

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Finally, speaking of such a branch of human sciences as media studies and analyzing the current disagreements concerning media, one can come up with revolutionary discoveries. For example, arguing against the idea that violence in media increases the number of instances of violence in real life led to discovering that violence in media serves as a “release valve for aggressive impulses” (Bushman and Anderson 479).

Therefore, it can be concluded that disagreement is extremely important for a scientific dispute. Sometimes disagreement can help find another opportunity or even discover a relation between certain factors. Thus, discoveries are made.


Without an argument, the process of acquiring knowledge and learning the truth would be one-sided and hardly objective. As it turns out, with the help of an argument, one can consider a specific problem from several points of view, thus, analyzing it in the most detailed way, which will help in searching for a solution. Therefore, the role of disagreement in the discussion process must not be underrated.

Works Cited

Bushman, Brad J., and Craig A. Anderson. “Media Violence and the American Public.” American Psychologist 56.6/7 (2001): 477-489. Print.

Camp, Joseph L. Confusion: A Study in the Theory of Knowledge. Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004. Print.

Critical Terminology for Theory of Knowledge 2012. Web.

Feeley, Malcolm M., and Edward L. Rubin. Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America’s Prisons. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Print.

Lagemaat, Richard van der. Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma. Full Colour Edition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.

O’Connor, Peg. Morality and Our Complicated Form of Life: Feminist Wittgensteinian Metaethics. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2008. Print.

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